Thanks for great coverage of a great chapter in Illinois basketball. Though the chapter ended on a down note, the progress made over the past four years is both tangible and sustainable, and good things are ahead for the program.
If this season had come off of years of sustained success, than the finish would be much more devastating. The reality is, that we are a relatively "new" kid returning to the national stage, and the process has us trending in the right direction towards long term relevance and realistic annual chances at winning a national championship.
Nearly all of the teams winning in the tournament are heavily flawed (like ours) -- its a matter of getting hot at the right time, and of having ample time, energy and basketball IQ to switch to combat the unusual offensive and defensive schemes that they may be seeing for the first time in a given year in the tourney. That is why the Loyola's and Syracuse's of the world sometimes struggle within their conferences (who see their offenses/defenses all of the time), but tend to do better in the Big Dance. Its why Illinois playing on the ball up the line can pull the upset at MSU while losing dozens of games, but also why Illinois playing pack line defense can win most of its games (how many times did we used to hear opposing B1G coaches say that "Illinois scheme is so hard to prepare for" - nobody says that now - now they say "Illinois' talent is so hard to prepare for."). Loyola outplayed us, and deserved to win, but its clear that we weren't adequately prepared to execute defensively against their offense, and offensively against their defense.
It will be interesting to see how many of these high seeded teams struggle in the Sweet 16, as their opponents have more time to prepare, and if the "hot" teams like Oregon State and Oral Roberts can stay "hot."